Cover Story Notebook: Adjusting Plans to Market Needs

In an ongoing series, Brewer will take a small note from interviews of some of the cover stories it has run and given a small tidbit that didn’t make the issue but is still worth diving into.

Cigar City Brewing has switched its business plan thought processes a few times. Those key switches have helped the Tampa, Florida brewery to continue to grow over the years.

When owner Joey Redner started thinking of opening a brewery in the area back in the mid-2000s, the then craft beer bar owner wanted to be a niche creator of products he liked to drink. That meant big Stouts and other experimental types of beer. He hired people that wanted to have that same vision.

Yet, once the brewery released Jai Alai IPA, the game plan changed. That meant switching gears to ramp up production of one product while still trying to create beers that appeased the creative and experimental side, to scratch that itch.

Eventually going from a niche to production brewery meant canning lines, production schedules and such.

“Some people come to work because they like maybe the ethos of the old place that is this cool lab where you can do all this crazy mad scientist shit,” Redner recalled during a November day interview with Brewer for the January/February 2020 issue cover story. “And then you go to say, everyone, yeah, we’re still going to try to do that. But now 80 percent of what we do is this beer (Jai Alai). It’s a different conversation than maybe what you had when somebody came on to work with you.

“But I looked at it is you know, I started the brewery again because why didn’t we have a brewery like this? But I go to other cities and would be like, oh, well, that’s the beer of that place. You know, Abita is the beer of New Orleans. Then when you finally see that you can have a beer that becomes associated with the area that you grew up in. I didn’t want to hamper that.”

The growth of being a production brewery actually helped in creating more room for the experimental side, noted COO Justin Clark. As capacity grew, so did the space to continue to make newer beers. Now, even though Jai Alai dominates production, the brewery is able to create thousands of barrels of other beers. So although the overall percentage of the beer in total production is down in the single digits, the amount of beer made is more than the plan of what being a niche brewery ever could have done.

Look for the January/February issue of Brewer in your mailbox soon

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